Although non-viral vectors are relatively safe, they have very low gene transfection efficiency, especially in pancreatic islet cells. To provide information on the use of nonviral vectors for transfecting genes into pancreatic islet cells, a comparative evaluation of non-viral options was performed. In vitro experiments were used to compare the transfection efficiency of three classes of non-viral vectors: Effectene, polyethylenimine (PEI, 25 kDa) and hemagglutinating virus of Japan-envelope (HVJ-E), into insulinoma cells (INS-1) and rat islets. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene with hypoxia-inducible RTP801 promoter was delivered into rat islets with Effectene and VEGF secretion under hypoxia was measured in the culture media. Luciferase activity and GFP assays indicated that Effectene exhibited the highest transfection efficiency, and HVJ-E was not suitable for transfection into pancreatic β-cells. The cytotoxicity of Effectene was found to be similar to that of 25-kDa PEI by 7-amino actinomycin D (7-AAD) flow cytometry and acridine orange/propidium iodide (AO/PI) assays. When RTP801 promoter-VEGF plasmid was delivered to rat islets with Effectene, VEGF secretion increased specifically in islets under hypoxia. In conclusion, Effectene showed higher gene-delivery efficiency for pancreatic islets compared with other classes of non-viral delivery systems and is promising as a gene delivery agent for pretransplant ex vivo gene therapy of islets.
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